|Steve Shutt coached team to victory (courtesy Inquirer/Ed Hille)|
"I just saw how good these kids were. I couldn't leave them," Shutt told Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Karen Heller.
There's more to it than that. Shutt has been coaching young chess players to stardom since 1970 in Philadelphia. How could he just let it all go?
Shutt was the guy who led the city's Vaux Junior High School to seven consecutive national titles between 1977 and 1983, a feat that inspired the movie, "The Mighty Pawns." More importantly, it inspired inner city schools around the country to launch chess teams as a way of engaging students and developing critical thinking. Thanks, in part, to Shutt, in Philadelphia about 4,000 students at 69 city schools are now involved in the Chess Challenge, under the umbrella of ASAP, the After School Activities Program.
Shutt officially retired last year from Julia R. Masterman Middle School, where he'd taught since 1990. But he was back working with the students during lunch and after school -- about seven hours a day, twice a week, to help prepare them for the U.S. Chess Federation's SuperNationals V. More than 5,000 kids showed up in Opryland for the event, which takes place every four years.
Heller calls Shutt's first year post-career his "nonretirement retirement."
Next year? He's keeping his options open, but for now, "I won't quit on them," Shutt said.